May is the month consecrated to the Virgin Mary. Special prayers, devotions and Mother’s Day, which is on the second Sunday of May not by chance. Lets’ find out more about May, the Marian month.
In a recent article about Mother’s Day, we talked about the historical background that led to the consecration of May to Jesus’s Mother since ancient times.
The reasons behind it are rooted in pre-Christian traditions, such as the pagan cult for ancient Greek and Roman gods of fertility, fecundity and the return to life. Let’s think about Persephone, only child of Zeus and Demeter, also known as Proserpina by the Romans. Hades, god of the underworld, who wanted to marry her, abducted her; she was deceived and forced to live in his gloomy reign for a time that corresponded to autumn and winter, when the earth was cold and barren. She was allowed to go back in the other periods of the year, and with her spring was back, bringing back warmth, colors and blooming flowers.
Romans also adored Maia, mother of Hermes and one of the Pleiades; she was the goddess of fertility and nature rebirth in spring. ‘May’ comes from her name.
The feasts dedicated to women deities of such kind turned into celebrations for Mary throughout time, forms of popular devotions that have been accepted and recognized by the church.
May as month of Mary. Why is that?
So, May is the month related to the symbolism of rebirth and the circle of life. There is no reference in the Sacred Texts that tie it to Mary in any way. Yet, anyone recognized the association between the month of May and the month of Mary. Let’s find out why.
May has always been associated with Love as well. In ancient times, hanging a blooming branch (called ‘maggio’ in Italian, that is, May) to the door of the girl they loved, meant saying “You are as beautiful as a flower” and also: “My heart is blooming for you”.
Around the XIII century, a new form of devotion began spreading across Europe: the sense of honor towards women, the respect men had to show because women deserved it. With this new vision of women, the Virgin Mary was the model and example of perfection that everyone, both men and women, should follow. Alfonso X king of Castile and Leon dedicated the Cantigas de Santa Maria to Mary, the most important collection of monodic songs of his time. The songs praised Mary and her miracles. In the Cantiga number 10 we can read:
Rosa das rosas e Fror das frores,
Dona das donas, Sennor das sennores.
Rose among roses and flower among flowers,
Lady among all ladies, Lord of Lords
This is how Alfonso defines Mary, he thinks of her as even more powerful of the kings of his time!
At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Dominican Henry Suso in his Little Book of Eternal Wisdom wrote about Mary: “Be blessed, rising dawn, over all the creatures, and be blessed the flowery meadow with beautiful red roses of your face, adorned with the red flower of the Eternal Wisdom”.
During the Medieval age, the custom of hanging blooming branches was not limited to the door of the beloved girl, but also to statues of Mary. In particular, people chose roses garlands, typical flower of May. That is how the tradition of the Rosary is born, pursued by Saint Philip Neri in the XVI century as well, who used to invite the children he took care of to decorate the image of Mary with roses.
The official consecration of May to the Virgin Mary came only on April 29 1965, with the encyclical Mense Maio by Pope Paul VI, where we can read, among many other things: “For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration. And it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne”.
In May 1912, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, in love with Mary, wrote to his confessor about the month of May: “My Father, this month praises Mary’s sweetness and beauty so well! My mind thinks about the multiple benefits this dear mother did to me, and I’m deeply ashamed of myself, as I never watched her heart and hand with enough love, while she handed them to me with such goodness. Poor mother, how much she loves me. I could see that again when this month began. She accompanied me to the altar this morning with such care. It seemed like she could only think of me by filling my heart with holy affections“.
Prayers to Mary during the month of May
There are many prayers in the Marian month because the devotion towards Jesus’ Mother in this particular month developed throughout the centuries. Just think about May Crowning, to be recited each day to ask Mary to give us love, strength of faith and absolution for our sins.
Another popular devotional practice in May are the pledges offered to the Virgin Mary. They are small sacrifices, resolutions offered to Our Lady Mary as if we were offering her a flower. A sign of our love for her and her son Jesus.
Of course, the Rosary is the best expression of devotion we can practice during May.
If we recite it every day, it helps creating a special relationship with the Virgin Mary and makes us feel closer to her and Jesus. Furthermore, reciting the Rosary each day of the month guarantees blessings and benefits for our beloved ones and us. According to traditions, Saint Dominic de Guzmàn, founder of the Dominican Order, received the first Rosary from Mary herself in 1214, as an instrument for converting non-believers and sinners. The Virgin Mary showed herself to him with a bouquet of 150 roses, and told him she wanted to be honored with a prayer that would include 150 Hail Mary alternated with Our Father. In exchange, Mary committed herself in granting 15 promises, one for each decade, declaring her intention in protecting the souls and the families of her devotees.
Alternatively, we can recite a liturgy. It is a short prayer recited by heart, aloud or silently. It is typical of popular devotion, often rhymed, and its content is simple and clear. By reciting it, we can alleviate the pains suffered by the souls in the Purgatory. Saint Philip Neri loved liturgies very much, and used to invite his children to recite one every day to find relief and comfort from the evil of the world. There are many collections of liturgies to take the cue from.
Marian month explained to children
How can we tell about May as the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary to the youngest ones? Does imposing them to recite the Rosary or other May prayers make any sense? Of course it does, even if we must explain things in a way that makes them easily understandable. Children are always happy and friendly when it comes to learn new things, especially if those things are close to their sensitivity.
First, we’ll need to explain that the month of May is dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, because it is the month of flowers, when nature awakens to a new life after the rigidity of winter. And Mary, Virgin and Mother, daughter to her own Son, is the most beautiful among flowers, the first one to bloom after Christ’s rebirth thanks to His promise of salvation for all humankind. More, the Virgin Mary, freed from the original sin and any other guilt, is a symbol of that promise of forgiveness and love herself, a wonderful flower given by God to the world as a sign of His endless generosity.
We can explain to children how the prayer of the Rosary, symbol of the Marian devotion par excellence, was born. The most characteristic flower of May is the rose, and in ancient times, children used to decorate Mary statues with crowns of roses. Each rose symbolized a prayer, a beautiful and scented prayer, worthy of the Virgin Mary. The beads that compose the Rosary come from those roses.
For the youngest ones, we must remind them that Mary is not only Jesus’ mother, but also everyone’s mother: the most beautiful, the sweetest and loving of all mothers, always reaching out to all of her children to protect them, comfort them and take care of them even during difficult times.
Items dedicated to Mary in Holyart catalog
Holyart catalog is full of items of any kind that can be useful to celebrate May as the month of the Virgin Mary at best.
In particular, you will find statues of any size and material, for outdoors or indoors, made of wood, resin, stone, marble powder, and the many interpretations of Her: Our Lady of Medjugorje, Lourdes and Fatima, Our Lady of Peace, of Grace, Immaculate, and so on.
Of course, our store offers a wide variety of rosaries of any kind and material: silver with Swarovski crystals, filigree, with coral beads, water pearls and hard stones. Many of our jewels, especially bracelets and rings but also necklaces and cufflinks, are dedicated to the cult of Mary. In this case as well, you will find a wide choice, with items that are suitable for any occasion and budget.